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Follows attorney Steve Wise’s fight to give animals personhood rights and break down the legal wall separating them from humans. Read more

New York, NY Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on May 23, 2014.

Follows attorney Steve Wise’s fight to give animals personhood rights and break down the legal wall separating them from humans.

New York, NY Documentary
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About this project

Hello Friends, Family, and Kickstarters:
OUR STRETCH GOAL BEYOND 75K CONTINUES!!! 
We cannot describe how excited we were when we saw that WE REACHED OUR KICKSTARTER GOAL. THANKS TO YOU!  The support keeps coming in, and we are now driving beyond 75k to our "stretch goal" of at least 100k. There's much more work to be done than the 75k will cover. We're ready to make these last few days the best ones yet!

ABOUT OUR FILM    

Many of you know our films Dont Look Back with Bob Dylan, The War Room chronicling Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign, and Startup.com shot during the Internet’s first boom and bust. These are stories about passionate people who took risks that changed history. We believe our new film, Unlocking the Cage, is just such a story. For the past two years we have been following an animal rights lawyer, Steve Wise, who is attempting to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. 

Tommy
Tommy

You might have recently read about Steve and his organization, the Nonhuman Rights Project. This past December they ignited a media frenzy when they filed the first-ever lawsuits demanding limited animal personhood rights for four chimpanzees in New York State. Tommy, a 26 year-old former film actor living in a garage on a used trailer lot, became their first plaintiff. 

Steve Wise lecturing at Harvard Law School
Steve Wise lecturing at Harvard Law School

What is animal personhood? It’s a way of transforming an animal from a thing with no rights to a “legal person” with irrevocable protections. When Steve helped pioneer the study of animal rights law – he was also the first person to teach it at Harvard Law, in 2000 – he grappled with how the law could better protect animals, especially cognitively complex ones like great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales. He was inspired to pursue animal personhood after watching countless animals fall victim to lax welfare laws and regulations that do not keep animals out of abusive environments like medical testing centers and zoos. It’s an unprecedented legal challenge, but as Steve says “it’s time to begin.”

The December lawsuits were the first major step towards animal personhood, and they were a surprising victory for Steve and his team. The lower court judges were sufficiently impressed with their legal arguments to hold oral hearings and then direct the lawsuits up to the Appellate Courts for a decision on animal personhood. Steve is presenting his cases to the Appellate Court this fall. 

Kanzi
Kanzi

Although we have captured the dramatic events leading up to this historic moment, the story is not over. We need to be there for Steve’s ultimate challenge this fall. We also want to film with the scientists who contributed affidavits on chimpanzee behavior that are crucial to Steve’s case. And we want to hear the owners’ side of the story, and see if the chimpanzees are declared legal persons and given a new life at sanctuaries.

Steve Wise at Save the Chimps Sanctuary
Steve Wise at Save the Chimps Sanctuary

We hope that by exploring Steve’s lawsuit and illustrating the legal and ethical questions it raises, Unlocking the Cage will contribute to the evolving debate about our society’s relationship to animals and, more importantly, why we should protect them. We are very excited about this project. It’s a personal story of a man with an uncompromising need to change the system, a story that we want to tell from start to finish. Please join us and help make it happen. 

Chris Hegedus, D A Pennebaker - Directors 

Frazer Pennebaker, Rosadel Varela - Producers

Julia McInnis - Associate Producer

Supported by the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
Supported by the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
Supported by the Catapult Film Fund
Supported by the Catapult Film Fund

 This Film Is A co-Production With The BBC

 Our Recent New York Times Op-Doc for Unlocking the Cage

April 27th New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story on Steve Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project
April 27th New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story on Steve Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project

CAN I GET A TAX DEDUCTION FOR MY DONATION?  

CAN I GIVE MORE THAN 10K?

Donations on Kickstarter are not tax deductible and you can't give more than 10K here.  BUT....never fear!  You can make a larger or tax-deductible donation through our 501(c)(3) partnership with Living Archives.  Please contact living.archives@gmail.com and they'd be very happy to help you out with that.  

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE RAISE MORE THAN OUR GOAL?

That would be fantastic because we actually need to raise much more than $75K in order to do the following:

Production and Film Shoots:  Some of these shoots will be multi-camera, some will be out of the country and all will be a week or more:

  • Filming the scientists in possibly Japan, Europe or North America who contributed affidavits to the lawsuits.
  • Filming with the plaintiffs and their owners.
  • Filming Steve and his team in three separate New York State appellate courts.
  • Filming Steve and his team as they strategize their next steps with the current cases and new suits to be filed in the United States and around the world.  

Rights:

Research footage          Archival footage              Music Rights

Editing & Post Production:

While we're editing some of the footage as we film, the bulk of the editing will come after the Steve’s appeals this fall.  Then there will be studio costs for audio mixes and video on-line and color-correction.

Animation:

We would also like to be able to do some animation for any court scenes we were not permitted to film.

I’M REALLY EXCITED / FASCINATED / ENRAGED / BAFFLED BY THE IDEAS IN YOUR FILM - HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT IT? 

Easy! You can: 

  • Follow Unlocking the Cage on Twitter and Facebook. We'll be posting the latest updates there as well as here on Kickstarter.
  • Share our campaign video with all your friends!
  • Visit the Pennebaker Hegedus Films website where you can send us a message.

The Pennebaker Hegedus DVDs you can choose from are listed here in our web store. Additionally, we have Dont Look Back, Monterey Pop, Kings of PastryThe War Room, and Unlocking the Cage (available mid/late 2015).

DONT LOOK BACK and Pennebaker Hegedus Films t-shirts. Available in xs, s, m, l, and xl
DONT LOOK BACK and Pennebaker Hegedus Films t-shirts. Available in xs, s, m, l, and xl
David Bowie ZIGGY STARDUST tshirt (made from an original negative from the film)
David Bowie ZIGGY STARDUST tshirt (made from an original negative from the film)
The official Nonhuman Rights Project t-shirt (available in xs, s, m, l, and xl)
The official Nonhuman Rights Project t-shirt (available in xs, s, m, l, and xl)
11x17 Daybreak Express Print signed by Penny
11x17 Daybreak Express Print signed by Penny
Depeche Mode 101 Poster
Depeche Mode 101 Poster
Limited Edition copy of "Company," signed by Stephen Sondheim and Penny
Limited Edition copy of "Company," signed by Stephen Sondheim and Penny
ZIGGY STARDUST Framed 35mm Print and Card Signed by Penny
ZIGGY STARDUST Framed 35mm Print and Card Signed by Penny
ZIGGY STARDUST Original 35mm Film Strip
ZIGGY STARDUST Original 35mm Film Strip
DONT LOOK BACK Framed 35mm Film Strip and Card Signed by Penny
DONT LOOK BACK Framed 35mm Film Strip and Card Signed by Penny
Original DONT LOOK BACK Cue Card Scene
Original DONT LOOK BACK Cue Card Scene
The Who at Monterey Pop
The Who at Monterey Pop
Bill Bramhall's NY Daily News cartoon inspired by Steve Wise's lawsuits
Bill Bramhall's NY Daily News cartoon inspired by Steve Wise's lawsuits
Steve's First Book, signed by the Author
Steve's First Book, signed by the Author
"The Art of French Pastry" signed by Jacquy Pfeiffer
"The Art of French Pastry" signed by Jacquy Pfeiffer
Painting by Jamie the Chimpanzee
Painting by Jamie the Chimpanzee
Candle Cafe West has generously contributed an amazing lunch with Steve Wise
Candle Cafe West has generously contributed an amazing lunch with Steve Wise
A Few of the DVDs that Chris and Penny Are Signing
A Few of the DVDs that Chris and Penny Are Signing

Risks and challenges

Following a real-life drama is full of risks and this film is no different. We don’t know where the story will end up, or what will happen next, or if we’ll get access to people or events. Through the decades of making our films we have come realize that none of it is easy but we have learned how to work around these challenges. To quote James Carville in THE WAR ROOM, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” We believe in this story and we will do everything we can to make the best film we know how and it will be done - but only with your help!

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

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    MACARON RECIPE from acclaimed "Kings of Pastry" chef Jacquy Pfeiffer. We'll email you a beautifully designed pdf of the recipe that includes pictures and detailed instructions so that you can make your own award-winning dessert.

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    "HICKORY HILL" DVD by Richard Leacock. The film is a behind-the-scenes look at RFK's annual pet show at his home. Also included is a digital download of "Unlocking the Cage" (available mid/late 2015). "Hickory Hill" DVD is USA region only - NTSC.

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    ONE OF A KIND DAVID BOWIE "ZIGGY STARDUST" T-SHIRT. Featuring an original still image from Penny's film "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," these shirts are designed by Pennebaker Hegedus and not available anywhere else. Screened on high-quality fabric with the Pennebaker Hegedus Films logo on the back.

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    ARTIST, ACTIVIST, ASHER JAY POSTER. Renowned creative conservationist and TEDx speaker, Asher Jay will create an original limited edition 11 x 17 poster inspired by "Unlocking The Cage". Signed by Asher Jay.

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    ORIGINAL THEATRICAL POSTERS. DEPECHE MODE 101, MONTEREY POP, DONT LOOK BACK ('98 printing), and THE WAR ROOM (subject to availability).

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    NY DAILY NEWS CARTOON & "UNLOCKING THE CAGE" DOWNLOAD. Cartoonist Bill Bramhall created the NY Daily News cartoon inspired by Steve Wise's December lawsuit filings. Signed by Steve. Includes a digital download of "Unlocking the Cage." (Note: the film will be available mid/late 2015.)

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    "THE ART OF FRENCH PASTRY" SIGNED COOKBOOK & "KINGS OF PASTRY" DVD. "Kings of Pastry" Bundle will include a signed copy of chef Jacquy Pfeiffer's new award-winning cookbook PLUS a DVD of the film signed by Pennebaker and Hegedus.
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    STEVE WISE SIGNED BOOKS & UNLOCKING THE CAGE DVD. Signed copies of Steve Wise's acclaimed books "Rattling the Cage" and "Drawing the Line." AND a DVD of "Unlocking the Cage" signed by Pennebaker and Hegedus. (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015.)

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    "TELL ME SOMETHING," a beautiful and now out-of-print book in which veteran filmmakers deliver advice on everything from career development to relationships and risk-taking. Signed by Chris and Penny as well as the book's editor JESSICA EDWARDS and filmmaker GARY HUSTWIT.

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    ORIGINAL PAINTING BY A CHIMPANZEE & UNLOCKING THE CAGE DVD. This piece of art is created by Jamie the chimpanzee at the Northwest Chimpanzee Sanctuary (5x7). Includes a DVD of "Unlocking the Cage" signed by Chris and Penny (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015.)

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    THE NATIONAL SIGNED VINYL LP's! The National have generously contributed 5 signed vinyls of their incredible new album "Trouble Will Find Me." We directed the band's 2010 live webcast at BAM, and Penny makes a cameo appearance in their official "Bloodbuzz Ohio" music video.

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    RARE "COMPANY" DVD. Signed by STEPHEN SONDHEIM and DA Pennebaker. These select DVDs are made by Pennebaker Hegedus Films, as the film is currently not in distribution.
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    COEN BROTHERS BUNDLE: "DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN" DVD signed by Chris, Penny, Joel & Ethan. Plus a DVD of the Coen Brothers' "INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS" concert, "ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER TIME" concert signed by Joel and Ethan. DVDs are USA region only - NTSC.

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    ORIGINAL 35MM FILM STRIPS! Rare opportunity to own the original 35mm film strips from "Dont Look Back," "Ziggy Stardust," Otis Redding in "Monterey Pop," The Who in "Monterey Pop," or "Alice Cooper." Framed with a card signed by D A Pennebaker. Each one is unique.

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    LUNCH WITH STEVE WISE BUNDLE (NYC). You and a friend will have lunch with Steve Wise from "Unlocking the Cage" at the AMAZING organic, vegan, CANDLE CAFE WEST restaurant. You'll have the chance to discuss Steve's work and the future of the animal rights movement. Includes 2 of his books and the NY Daily News cartoon (both signed) and a DVD of the finished film signed by Chris and Penny.

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    AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY PACKAGE (NYC). We've done a lot of research there for our film, and the museum has kindly contributed a special visitors package: 6 tickets for the museum, a private tour of the Dino hall, and tickets to the Space Show. All of this plus a digital download of "Unlocking the Cage" (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015.)

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    MICHAEL MOORE VOICEMAIL. Our longtime friend and colleague Michael Moore will record a custom 15 second voicemail on your personal phone. (Makes a great gift)!

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    LUNCH WITH STEVE WISE BUNDLE (BOSTON). You and a friend will have lunch with Steve Wise from "Unlocking the Cage" at the famed CINQUECENTO restaurant. You'll have the chance to discuss Steve's work and the future of the animal rights movement. Includes 2 of his books and the NY Daily News cartoon (both signed) and a DVD of the finished film signed by Chris and Penny. (film available mid/late 2015.

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    LUNCH WITH STEVE WISE PACKAGE (FLORIDA). You and a friend will have lunch with Steve Wise from "Unlocking the Cage" in FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA. You'll have the chance to discuss Steve's work and the future of the animal rights movement. Includes 2 of his books and the NY Daily News cartoon (both signed) and a DVD of the finished film signed by Chris and Penny. (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015.)

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    **NEW STEVE WISE FILM THANK YOU BUNDLE. Includes 2 of his books (signed), 2 DVDs of the finished film signed by Chris and Penny, a digital download of the finished film, 2 Nonhuman Rights Project t-shirts, an Asher Jay print poster, and the Daily News cartoon signed by Steve. Additionally, you will receive a special Thank You in the film's credits! (Note: the film will be available mid/late 2015.) DVD is USA region only - NTSC.

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    CHAT WITH DA PENNEBAKER PACKAGE! via Google Hangout or Skype. You and your friends will chat with Penny about his experience filming "Dont Look Back" with Bob Dylan. Includes signed (by Penny) "Dont Look Back" poster, DVD, and framed 35mm film strip, an original Dont Look Back tshirt, and a handwritten Thank You card from Penny.
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    PENNEBAKER HEGEDUS OFFICE TOUR & LUNCH BUNDLE (NYC)! Get your behind the scenes tour for you and a friend led by Chris and Penny. Includes your choice of three autographed DVDs, a poster, and a framed and signed original 35mm film strip (your choice from the list above). AND a special Thank You in the "Unlocking the Cage" credits. DVDs are USA region only - NTSC.

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    DINNER WITH CHRIS & PENNY PACKAGE (BOSTON). You and a friend will have dinner with our directors at Boston's award winning GASLIGHT BRASSERIE DU COIN. You'll have the chance to discuss their work and anything movie related! Includes your choice of three autographed DVDs, and a framed and signed original 35mm film strip (your choice from the list above). AND a special Thank You in the "Unlocking the Cage" credits. DVDs are USA region only - NTSC.

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    FILM CONSULTATION with Chris and Penny. They will review and advise on your project, up to 120 minutes of footage and 2 hour discussion to follow - (NYC only). Includes a special THANK YOU in the "Unlocking the Cage" CREDITS and a digital download of the finished film (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015.)

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    PRIVATE SCREENING NYC. Chris and Penny will host a private screening of your favorite Pennebaker Hegedus film(s) for your group, company or school, up to 20 guests, in New York City. We will provide the theater, drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Each of your guests will receive a PHF t-shirt and a signed dvd of the screened film, and you'll get all of that PLUS a signed original 35mm film strip. Includes a special thanks in the "Unlocking the Cage" credits. Email us to discuss: unlocking-the-cage@phfilms.com

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    PRIVATE FILM SCREENING. Chris and Penny will help you put together a program of your favorite Pennebaker Hegedus film(s) for your group, company or school, anywhere in the U.S., hosted by them. You'll get a special thanks in the "Unlocking the Cage" credits and a signed original 35mm film strip PLUS 10 signed dvds and 10 PHF t-shirts. Penny and Chris' transportation and lodging are additional, unless you're in the New York area. Timing: this fall, exact date TBD depending on the directors' schedules. Email us to discuss: unlocking-the-cage@phfilms.com

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    CUSTOM PETER MAX MIXED MEDIA PAINTING. 12x12 mixed media portrait on canvas by renowned artist Peter Max. He will paint an animal in our film or your pet, your choice! You will also receive a THANK YOU in the "Unlocking the Cage" CREDITS and a DVD of the finished film signed by Chris and Penny. (Note: the film will be available in mid/late 2015).

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Funding period

- (30 days)